Sex in a story, sex as a story

In an early review of The Brazen Altar, the reviewer made an interesting observation: The story is told through sex. It’s not a story with sexy scenes in it; it’s a story that’s told via sex.

What’s the difference?

There’s a lot of sex in The Brazen Altar. Well, in all the Passionate Pantheon books, really. But it’s not ‘story’, then ‘sex scene’, then ‘more story’, then ‘another sex scene’. The sex is deeply integrated into the story; the characters grow and change during the sex. The reader learns about the world during the sex.

We think that’s how erotica should be. In fact, that’s what we thought erotica was. But a funny thing happened on our way to publishing: we saw a review of The Brazen Altar that complained the plot doesn’t make sense. 

And we think we’ve figured out why.

There’s a tendency for readers to sort of skim over the sex in a lot of erotic novels, especially if the sex isn’t exactly the sort that lights their fire (or at the very least twiddles their knobs). Their eyes glaze over: “yeah, yeah, this is a sex scene, not a story scene.”

Most erotica has, we think, conditioned readers to read this way. The (in)famous novel 50 Shades of Grey tends to have sex that feels very disconnected from story, in part because back when it was still Twilight fanfic, the site where it first appeared didn’t allow explicit sex. The most explicit scenes were only available on the author’s website, and linked in the notes. This meant that the story had to be comprehensible (insofar as that word applies) even if you didn’t read any of the sex. (Considering the circumstances, and a mostly-teenage fandom, I have to say I agree with that compromise.)

But the Passionate Pantheon books can’t be read that way.

If your eyes glaze over during the sex, you’ll miss a lot. A lot of sex, obviously, but also a lot of the character dynamics, a lot of the worldbuilding, and a lot of the plot.

No wonder she was confused.

The stories take place in a far-future society ruled by benevolent AIs who are worshipped as gods. The people know the gods were created by humans, of course, but when they’re functionally omnipotent and omniscient, what else would you call them except gods?

And they still worship them anyway, mainly through highly ritualized sex. Sex pervades every part of the society: it’s worship, it’s connection, it’s entertainment, it’s community. It’s a fundamental part of the lives of the characters who inhabit the book, meaning it’s a fundamental part of the stories we tell.

We’ve deleted sex scenes that haven’t served the plot, the characterisation, or the worldbuilding. For all the fact that the books are loaded down with sex (and oh, are they ever), none of it is gratuitous. We didn’t have the space to waste. Every wet, squishy bit of it serves the story. 

Yes, even that bit, with the thing you really liked. And the one with the act you found vaguely disquieting. And the one that left you wondering how you could replicate it with the tech levels we have now. 

All of it.

When you read the novels, keep that in mind. The books will make a lot more sense, we promise.

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